How to Foster Effective Professional Development

Updating your skills keeps your resumé relevant and gives you a professional edge.

Professional development | BCBusiness

Updating your skills keeps your resumé relevant and gives you a professional edge.

Would you trust a surgeon who hadn’t updated his or her skills, techniques or medical knowledge in the 20 years since graduating from medical school? Without ongoing training any professional can lose their edge, but how do you ensure professional development is working for your business? We asked the experts: Bruce Wiesner, associate dean of executive education at the Sauder School of Business; Leslie Meingast, president and CEO of The Personnel Department; and Vinetta Peek, vice-president of programs and marketing for Certified Management Accountants of B.C.

Be role-specific

Development is not one size fits all; it needs to fit with an employee’s role within the company, and with their own personal skills, interests and learning patterns. Wiesner says, “The programs that are the real magic mesh the individuals’ needs for development with the business outcomes the organization is trying to achieve,” so it’s important to have ongoing conversations with employees about the type of education they need to keep themselves and your company competitive.

Track your ROI

Monitoring the value that continuing education adds to your business can be tricky in terms of dollars and cents, so our experts rely upon a variety of measures to assess a positive change in the business. This can mean analyzing the performance of individuals or business units after employees have gone through a program, or looking at the metrics that measure specific business challenges identified going into the program. Peek says the most important question she asks CMA B.C. program participants is, “Are we bringing value to your company?”

Make it part of your culture

To get employees to commit to your company, you need to commit to them. For this reason, three of The Personnel Department’s five core values relate to development. Meingast leads by example by pursuing lifelong learning. She and Peek both advise making development accessible by taking an organization-wide approach, with required annual education credits, or an annual education budget for each staff member. Wiesner says making your staff a priority pays off because “organizations that invest in ongoing development, even in the face of economic challenge, are the ones that emerge the strongest when those times improve.”

Think outside the cubicle

Sauder’s executive education programs are driven by business outcomes, but Wiesner believes that since personal wellness, confidence and energy level all contribute to employee success, they are important components of continuing education, too. Meingast, also a strong supporter of company-wide wellness or charity initiatives, staff community involvement and external mentorship, says, “It’s all development. If you learn how to manage and achieve goals in one arena you’re going to transfer those skills back into your work”.